Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (“HVCU”) appealed from the district court’s ruling denying HVCU’s motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s putative class action claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and claims under New York law and the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling, holding that the record was insufficiently developed for the district court to deny the motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the record is insufficiently developed on the issue of whether the parties entered into an agreement to arbitrate and, as a consequence, the court wrote it cannot determine the matter of arbitrability “as a matter of law.” Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider further evidence or, if necessary, hold a trial.   The court further explained that it was an error for the district court to engage in the inquiry notice analysis based on the copy of the Internet Banking Agreement, which does not depict the content and design of the webpage as seen by users signing up for online banking. The court wrote that on remand, the district court should consider the design and content of the Internet Banking Agreement as it was presented to users in determining whether Plaintiff assented to its terms. And the district court should assess whether the Account Agreements are clearly identified and available to the users based on the court’s precedents. View "Zachman v. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming certain damages awarded to The University of Notre Dame (USA) in England (Notre Dame) by a foreign arbitral tribunal in a contractual dispute relating to construction defects, holding that Notre Dame's petition for judicial confirmation of the awards was not time-barred.Notre Dame brought this action against TJAC Waterloo, LLC and ZVI Construction Co., who were, respectively, the seller and renovator of a dormitory that Notre Dame had agreed to purchase. The dispute was submitted to arbitration. After the arbitrator entered the awards, Notre Dame moved the district court to confirm the awards and entered summary judgment in its favor. The district court granted Notre Dame's request for judicial confirmation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Notre Dame's motion for judicial confirmation was not time-barred. View "University of Notre Dame (USA) in England v. TJAC Waterloo, LLC" on Justia Law

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Xylem, which sells large-capacity water pumps, requested that Field develop hardware to interface with the pumps and computer software for monitoring and controlling the equipment. A 2013 “NonDisclosure Agreement” contained an arbitration provision. Xylem purchased the units from Field via written Purchase Orders and purchased monthly subscriptions that permitted Xylem’s customers to use Field’s software via cellular networks to monitor and control their Xylem pumps. There was no written agreement governing Xylem’s software subscription purchases until the 2017 “Software Subscription Service Agreement,” which contained an “integration clause” stating that “[t]his Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to its subject matter and supersedes any and all prior or contemporaneous understandings or agreements.” The 2017 contract contained no arbitration provision, instead requiring any “action under or concerning” that contract to be litigated in New Jersey. Xylem began building its own hardware.Field sued, in New Jersey, for breach of the 2017 contract. In discovery, Xylem sent Field an interrogatory asking whether it intended to rely on the 2013 contract to support any of its claims. Field responded that Xylem breached the 2013 contract by its actions. Xylem then filed an arbitration demand. The district court held that the 2017 agreement superseded the earlier contract, eliminating any duty to arbitrate. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The district court was authorized to determine whether the second agreement superseded the first but the first agreement was not superseded. View "Field Intelligence Inc v. Xylem Dewatering Solutions Inc" on Justia Law

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OneMain, a non-bank finance company, loaned Zirpoli $6,200.08, to be repaid at a rate of 26.91% (total $11,364.35). The loan was issued under the Consumer Discount Company Act (CDCA), a consumer protection statute, which creates an exception to Pennsylvania’s usury law. The loan is governed by a disclosure statement, a security agreement, and an arbitration agreement. Later, OneMain sold delinquent accounts to Midland, including Zirpoli’s loan. Midland sued Zirpoli but later dismissed the suit and undertook collection efforts.Zirpoli filed a class action, alleging that Midland’s collection activities constituted an unlawful attempt to collect the loan because Midland does not have a CDCA license and never obtained nor requested approval from the Department of Banking. Midland was, therefore, not lawfully permitted to purchase the loan. Midland moved to compel arbitration. The court denied the motion, focusing on the validity of the assignment from OneMain and Midland. The Third Circuit vacated. The ultimate illegality of a contract does not automatically negate the parties’ agreement that an arbitrator should resolve disputes arising from the contract. The parties to the loan clearly agreed to arbitrate the issue of arbitrability. The arbitration agreement provides that an arbitrator shall resolve the arbitrability of defenses to enforcement, including alleged violations of state usury laws. View "Zirpoli v. Midland Funding LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a local delivery driver for Cintas Corporation. That means he picked up items from a Houston warehouse (items shipped from out of state) and delivered them to local customers. Lopez does not want to arbitrate his claims against Cintas. He says that he is exempt from doing so because he belongs to a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” under Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act.   The Fifth Circuit partially affirmed the district court’s ruling finding that Plaintiff is not a “transportation worker” under Section 1 of the FAA. However, because Plaintiff's unconscionability challenge to his employment agreement must be decided in arbitration, the court vacated and remanded for that claim to be dismissed without prejudice to be considered in arbitration in the first instance.   The court explained that unlike either seamen or railroad employees, the local delivery drivers here have a more customer-facing role, which further underscores that this class does not fall within Section 1’s ambit. As a result, the transportation-worker exemption does not apply to this class of local delivery drivers. Further, because unconscionability under Texas law is a challenge to the validity, not the existence, of a contract, that challenge must be resolved by an arbitrator. Thus, the court held that the district court erred in resolving the merits of Plaintiff’s unconscionability claim. View "Lopez v. Cintas" on Justia Law

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In an action brought by the State of Hawaii challenging the U.S. Department of the Army’s changes to the operation of its dining facilities at Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s conclusion that the Randolph-Shepard Act (“RSA”) did not apply to Dining Facility Attendant (“DFA”) contracts, and affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the RSA advance review provision applied to the reclassification of a Schofield Barracks contract.   The panel held that the district court applied an incorrect standard of review to the RSA arbitration panel’s construction of 20 U.S.C. Section 107(a) when it deferred heavily to the arbitration panel’s interpretation. Because the RSA did not delegate interpretive authority to the arbitration panel, the panel reviewed de novo. The panel held that the term “operate” was ambiguous in Section 107(a).   The panel held further that the statutory structure of the RSA supported a broad interpretation in favor of increased opportunities for blind vendors, and the implementing regulations swept even more broadly and counseled strongly in favor of applying the RSA to DFA contracts. The panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the RSA advance review requirement applied to the Army’s reclassification of Schofield Barracks’ dining facilities. View "STATE OF HAWAII V. USEDU" on Justia Law

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Three elderly individuals spent tens of thousands of dollars buying collectible coins, often priced far above market value, from Asset Marketing Services, LLC (“AMS”). They sued AMS for violating Minnesota law. AMS moved to stay the case and compel arbitration. The district court refused, and AMS appeals.   The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for trial on the extent to which the parties agreed to arbitrate. The court explained that the parties agree that Minnesota’s law applies. Under its law, contract formation requires an offer, acceptance, and consideration. In this case, there are genuine issues of material fact about whether and when the parties formed contracts that incorporated the arbitration agreement.   On appeal, AMS advances various new arguments against applying the Consent Order, including that it should be assessed by an arbitrator in the first instance, not a court. This Court declines to address these new arguments. In any event, Plaintiffs cannot enforce the Order because they lack standing to do so—an argument AMS did raise before the district court. View "William Ballou v. Asset Marketing Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, independent contractors of American Family Life Insurance Company of Columbus (Aflac), alleged that an Aflac employee, sexually assaulted Plaintiff in her hotel room during a work conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant, asserting tort claims for battery, assault, false imprisonment, and loss of consortium, among others. the beneficiary under Plaintiffs’ Arbitration Agreements with Aflac. The district court denied the motion as to the aforementioned claims, holding that they did not arise under or relate in any way to the arbitration agreements. Defendant appealed, arguing that the claims fall within the scope of the arbitration agreements.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Plaintiffs’ tort claims do not fall within the scope of the Arbitration Agreements. The facts underlying Plaintiffs’ tort claims do not touch matters covered by Plaintiffs’ Arbitration Agreements in light of the Agreements’ limiting language requiring the “dispute arise under or relate in any way to the Associate’s Agreements. As a result, the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. View "Katherine Anderson v. Jeffrey Hansen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the court of appeal issuing a writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit court from exercising jurisdiction over certain claims, holding that the court of appeal erred in issuing the writ.Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against an insurance company and the law firm representing the company in the underlying suit Plaintiff brought against the insurer, arguing that Defendants violated confidentiality requirements applicable to a mediation. After the circuit court denied Defendants' motions to dismiss Defendants petitioned the Third District relief. The Third District granted a writ of prohibition, concluding that the circuit court had exceeded its jurisdiction by entertaining Defendants' collateral estoppel affirmative defense. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that the writ of prohibition was used in an improper manner here. View "Mintz Truppman, P.A. v. Cozen O'Connor, PLC" on Justia Law

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Crozer owns healthcare companies that operate as wholly owned subsidiaries: Prospect, employs professionals working at hospitals; CCMC, is a hospital and hired Abdurahman as an emergency medical resident. Abdurahman signed new-hire paperwork, including an at-will employment agreement with Crozer and an arbitration agreement with Prospect. Several weeks later, Abdurahman signed a residency agreement with CCMC. Dr. Jacobs was an employee of Prospect, working as CCMC’s Director of Toxicology and supervised Abdurahman. Abdurahman alleged that Jacobs sexually harassed her; Jacobs claimed the opposite and informed CCMC Human Resources that Abdurahman had assaulted her. The dispute escalated until Abdurahman was fired.Abdurahman filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the EEOC, alleging defamation and discrimination under Title VII, Title IX, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She subsequently filed suit against CCMC and Jacobs. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed. Abdurahman signed an arbitration agreement with Prospect, not CCMC. That agreement cannot stretch to govern Abdurahman’s employment with CCMC. The court noted that the corporations are sophisticated entities that drafted the forms. View "Abdurahman v. Prospect CCMC LLC" on Justia Law